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Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016

Coaches looking for improvement after Dexter Jamboree

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Portageville's Michael Johnson tries to avoid a Scott City defender.
DEXTER -- Portageville, Scott City, Kennett and Dexter mixed it up in a football jamboree at Dexter's Charles Bland Stadium on Friday evening.

Also mixed were the post-scrimmage reviews of each team's coaches following the first and final non-counting live action against outside competition before the regular season kicks off on Friday.

Said host Dexter coach Aaron Pixley, "All in all, I felt like our kids did some good things but we've got a long way to go. This whole football team has to get a lot better if we're going to challenge for any kind of championship."

Portageville Bulldogs coach Ashley Swims said, "I think, in comparison to last year, we're a little bit better. Of course, we've still got a lot of things to work on--the offensive line needs to work on sustaining their blocks and receivers need to work on catching the ball when they're wide open, some of the usual things."

Terry Flannigan, whose Class 2 Scott City Rams are coming off a 3-7 season, said, "Right now, nobody's where they want to be but I thought we came out and got a few things done that we were trying to do, got a lot of work in and got out of here semi-injury free. We had one slight injury.

A Scott City defender forces a fumble on Dexter's Anthony Alsup.
"We finally got to hit somebody else other than ourselves. We were getting kind of bored with that and that's a little breath of fresh air for the kids. Now they know they can do some stuff, so they're ready to go back and go to work."

In the officiated scrimmage, each varsity squad was allotted a set number of plays on offense against an opponent's defense. Each team matched up against two different opponents. Junior varsity squads participated in a similar format.

Dexter, 7-4 last season and a defending district champion, scored twice while holding Scott City to one score.

Dexter scored on two nifty pass plays triggered by senior quarterback Josh Stevens, the first a 40-yard grab on a beautifully thrown pass to senior wide receiver Logan Swindle, the second a 9-yard catch by senior wideout Drew Pixley, who tightroped the sideline to stay inbounds.

"Those two receivers have been with this quarterback a long time," said Aaron Pixley. "Our receiving corps, including Chad Ventura and Bobby Rawson, can catch the football."

However, despite the aerial show and a couple of long gainers by tailback Zach Ventura, including a 40-yard scoring jaunt against Portageville, coach Pixley was less than thrilled with the Bearcats' overall ground game, specifically an inability to sustain blocks beyond the point of attack.

"We feel like the passing game could be a strength of ours," he said, "but, this is Dexter. We've got to run the football. We're going to commit to that and work on that. If we get better, we'll have a chance. If we don't get better at it, we're going to have a tough year."

Dexter is rebuilding an offensive line which lost three-fifths of its starters to graduation.

Portageville, which dropped from Class 2 to Class 1 this season, failed to reach the end zone against either Class 3 Kennett or Class 3 Dexter, but Swims feels the exposure to larger schools is invaluable.

"The jamborees are for all of us to get out here and hit somebody else to see where we're at, so I think it's good for us to play bigger schools to see what that game speed is like," he said. "Each level's got a little different game speed, so I think it's good for us to see the level they play at and it helps us to get more prepared for our season."

The Bulldogs' junior running back Aaron Kershaw showed promise, ripping off several nice gains.

"I'm hoping for great things from Aaron this year," said Swims. "He runs the ball hard and always falls forward. I like that in a running back."

On the negative side, the Bulldogs' projected starting running back Trey Mosby was forced from action early with a forearm injury.

While Mosby's arm was wrapped, iced and in a sling, the extent of the injury was not immediately known.

Said Swims, "The thing we have to watch out for is not to become injury plagued. We've got to stay healthy this year; that's the main thing. As long as we can stay healthy and keep everyone on the same page, we should be all right."

Scott City scored once against Dexter on a 30-yard pass play from junior quarterback Ethan Watkins to senior wideout Blake Dirnberger.

Dirnberger also recorded a 10-yard sack of a Dexter quarterback and an interception against Kennett.

Coach Flannigan, in his third season of a second stint at Scott City, appreciated the individual play, of course, but seemed more concerned with the big picture in evaluating his team's performance.

"We've had trouble with team unity, playing as a group," he said. "We know we're undersized and we've got to take advantage of playing as a group. They showed tonight that they are starting to do that a little bit and believe in themselves."

Dexter's Aaron Pixley praised Scott City's effort.

"Scott City always plays hard and that's why I really like them to come to this Jamboree," he said. "They're real physical and we like to play people like that to show us just how physical we are."

Each coach echoed Pixley's words, when referring to his Bearcats, he said, "They know what they've got to do on Monday. They all said it to each other after the jamboree and, hopefully, we'll come out Monday and get after it."

Dexter opens on the road against perennial power Ste. Genevieve, while Scott City hosts Malden, Portageville travels to Piggott, Ark., and Kennett visits SEMO Conference rival Charleston.

All games are scheduled for Friday at 7 p.m.